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We report the first record of Rufous-thighed Kite Harpagus diodon in Colombia, the north-westernmost documented record of this species during its non-breeding season. In addition, we conducted a spatiotemporal analysis of the species' distribution based on a compilation of available records. Documented records evidence that this raptor either moves further north-west than was previously assumed, or that vagrants reach north-western Amazonia, suggesting that further ornithological research into austral and intra-tropical migrants in southern Colombia is needed. Differences between patterns of documented and undocumented records of this species suggest the need for multimedia evidence to substantiate data generated by citizen science initiatives.
The Bird of Washington Falco washingtoniiAudubon, 1827, was a new species of eagle published in the opening plates of John James Audubon's influential work, The birds of America (1827–38). It was the first plate engraved by Robert Havell Jr. and the first new species Audubon described in his career. However, the Bird of Washington was published without specimen evidence and, to this day, no specimen with the anatomical characters in Audubon's descriptions and plate has ever been found. To shed light on the case, I conducted an exhaustive search for primary (non-print) sources in multiple archives in the USA and transcripts in the literature. Here, I demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that Audubon's painting of the Bird of Washington was not ‘faithfully figured from a fresh-killed specimen’, as he claimed, but was the product of both plagiarism and invention. The preponderance of evidence suggests that the Bird of Washington was an elaborate lie that Audubon concocted to convince members of the English nobility who were sympathetic to American affairs, to subscribe to and promote his work. Audubon rode his Bird of Washington to widespread fame and then actively maintained the ruse for more than 20 years, until his death, fuelling decades of confusion among scientists and the general public. The broad implications for Audubon-related scholarship and ornithology are discussed.
The extinct Kiritimati Sandpiper Prosobonia cancellata is known from a single contemporaneous illustration by William Wade Ellis and a description by William Anderson. We reproduce Ellis' illustration for the first time, and we consider the illustration as almost in line with Anderson's description. Further, using both Anderson's work and Ellis' illustration, we prepared a description of the bird to replace Latham's interpretation of the depiction. Finally, we show that Kiritimati Sandpiper possessed several unique morphological characters.
A recent comprehensive molecular phylogeny of the Picidae recovered the genus Dinopium as paraphyletic, with Olive-backed Woodpecker D. rafflesii sister to Pale-headed Woodpecker Gecinulus grantia. Of the available taxonomic responses, we favour assigning D. rafflesii to its own genus, in line with the modern trend to recognise more and smaller genera. Several genus names were used for rafflesii between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, of which Chloropicoides Malherbe, 1849, is the oldest. Available information suggests, however, that it was not Malherbe's intention to designate rafflesii as the type of his new genus, but that in near-simultaneously publishing two works on the Picidae he inadvertently introduced Chloropicoides first in combination solely with rafflesii, making it the type species by monotypy. Should it be proven that his other, more detailed paper was in fact published first, then another Malherbe genus, Gauropicoides, could be used by those who seek to recognise the distinctiveness of rafflesii.
Rufous Grasswren Amytornis whitei is the most widely distributed of three species formerly included within the Striated Grasswren A. striatus complex. Included among four phenotypically, geographically and ecologically distinct populations are A. w. whitei of the Pilbara ironstone ranges of Western Australia and A. w. oweni of inland sandy deserts. The other two are the little-known small-billed isolate of the limestone plateau of the Cape Range, North West Cape Peninsula, Western Australia, and a larger form present in the mallee of the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. We present morphometric and other data and describe these two populations as new subspecies; both are of conservation concern.
The non-breeding distribution of Piping Plover Charadrius melodus outside the USA has only recently been elucidated, with new records in Central American and Caribbean countries during the last decade. A specimen from Ecuador was the only definite record in South America prior to 2018. We present two records of Piping Plover in Venezuela; the first at the Paraguaná Peninsula, Falcón state, on 25 February 2018, and the second in the northern part of Ciénaga de Los Olivitos Wildlife Refuge and Fishing Reserve, Zulia state, on 5 March 2020.
We present new data on the breeding biology and biometrics of Silver-beaked Tanager Ramphocelus carbo in south-west Brazilian Amazonia. R. carbo is widely distributed in South America, but its reproductive ecology is little studied. We made observations on the species in a terra firme forest fragment in the capital city of the state of Acre, between 1999 and 2020. We monitored 12 nests between 2012 and 2020, built at a mean height of 1.3 m above ground. Clutch size was two eggs, incubated for 13 days. We monitored the development of 11 nestlings: minimum hatch weight was 1 g and young fledged with a mean mass of c.18.9 g. The constant growth rate (K) of nestlings was 0.48 with a growth asymptote of 22.1 g. Daily survival rate was 91% and 98% during the incubation and nestling periods, respectively. Mayfield success in the incubation and nestling periods was 28% and 74%, respectively. Apparent nesting success in the incubation and nestling periods was 62% and 82%, respectively. We recorded a minimum longevity of 11 years, six months and 28 days. The subspecies R. c. connectens breeds mainly in the rainy season (October–January) overlapping with the moult period.
Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata has two highly disjunct populations in Vietnam and Lao PDR (nominate ocellata) and Malaysia (subspecies nigrescens). When evidence from the small sample of museum specimens is supplemented by novel photographic and acoustic evidence, Malaysian nigrescens proves to be distinct on a suite of characters: yellower bill with blackish nares, buffier supercilium, throat and breast, different-coloured and -structured crest, different-patterned upperparts and tail, a purer, more fluent, longer, lower Short Call (used by advertising males), markedly divergent from the explosive, nasal, double-noted equivalent in nominate ocellata, and a higher number of loud notes in the Long Call including an unexplained bimodal vs. unimodal pattern (hence either average 8.6 or 14.5 vs. 7.1 loud notes per call). In combination these characters indicate a level of differentiation compatible with species rank for nigrescens, and this is strongly reflected in Tobias criteria scoring. The conservation of the two forms requires urgent reconsideration.
The alpha taxonomy of the genus Gygis is controversial, with limited molecular studies contradicting distributional and phenotypic evidence that two Pacific forms, larger candida and smaller microrhyncha are separate species. This paper reviews evidence from the subfossil record, morphology, distribution and hybridisation, and vocalisations to conclude that Gygis comprises three biological species, nominate alba in the Atlantic, and two Pacific species. It also reviews historical English vernacular names and proposes ‘fairytern’ as a group name for these members of the newly recognised subfamily Gyginae. This name maintains popular tradition but requires a minor exception to some current naming conventions. Proposed English names are Atlantic Fairytern, Common Fairytern, and Little Fairytern. The name White Tern should now apply only to the historical single species, and Fairy Tern remains for Sternula nereis.